THE ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM; LOCAL VERSUS GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINTS IN VAL DI MERSE, ITALY
Patterson, Trista Maj
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Tourism has been proposed as an important tool for sustainable development, yet decision-makers lack appropriate measures for its economic, social, and environmental success. "Sustainable tourism" implies a finite limit to tourism growth beyond which point it is no longer sustainable, yet to date, benchmark environmental indicators have not been developed to define a destination's carrying capacity. This dissertation utilizes concepts from ecological economics towards defining a sustainable scale for tourism development. In addition, an ecological footprint indicator (EF) is applied to two populations (residents and tourists) responsible for both local and global environmental pressures. These distinctions are important because traditional concepts of tourism carrying capacity focus solely on impacts to the host destination. This creates the possibility that tourism activity viewed as locally sustainable is still causing impacts elsewhere on the planet. By widening the scale of the ecological footprint, I quantify and discuss the differences between local and global environmental pressures of tourism. Proponents of "alternative tourism" (agrotourism, ecotourism, bicycle tourism) have suggested the Merse watershed in Tuscany Italy be developed to absorb tourist overflow from crowded city centers. My findings are that combined local activity of host and visitor populations does not exceed (in terms of ecological footprint) the biocapacity calculated for Val di Merse. However, biocapacity for Val di Merse is exceeded when arrival transport to the destination is included, with tourist equivalent resident EF rising from 5.36 to 38.15 gha/person. I conclude that tourism frequently is declared locally sustainable without examination of its impacts at a global level. In response, I propose an alternative conceptual model which provides a foundation for knowledge management across multiple spatial scales. Local policy strategies for tourism are explored using conceptual models, analysis of eco-efficiency, and the area's tradeoffs in greenhouse gas emission inventory.